The Daily Edit – Tracy + David Stills and Motion

- - The Daily Edit

Tracy+David

Heidi: Were you both involved in photography prior to joining forces?
Tracy+David: We’re both former news photojournalists who left our staff photography positions at newspapers almost 10 years ago, and moved to Southern California to begin freelancing. David was formerly an Art Director and Photo Editor at The State Journal-Register in Illinois, before returning to grad school for visual communication through the Knight Fellowship at Ohio University. Following grad school, he started shooting full time as a staff photographer at the Naples Daily News in Florida (a medium-sized paper that was known for its strong tradition of documentary storytelling).

Tracy fell in love with photography in high school, practically living in the darkroom when she wasn’t in the pool (she was a serious competitive swimmer), and beat down the door of the local newspaper in New Haven, Conn., to learn the ropes of photojournalism when she was 16. After college and a number of summer internships at newspapers around the country later, she landed a job at the Naples Daily News where she met David. After a couple of years there, Tracy was offered a position at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, as a staff photojournalist and sports photographer.

While we love what we do now and haven’t looked back, we’ve always felt that our work as photojournalists was the best bootcamp, where we problem solved all day everyday, learned to be extremely flexible and nimble, and learned to work with people from all different walks of life. We became extremely adept at working in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment, thinking quickly, staying calm in stressful situations, and creating large libraries of images under seemingly impossible deadlines.

Do you both shoot for each project?
Yes. We shoot together on almost every project, working as a team to get more images, angles, ideas, etc. Most often, we’re both shooting from different angles simultaneously, capturing essentially double the images and angles that one of us could do on our own. For this reason, we like to work with natural lighting or continuous lighting, if feasible, as it allows us to shoot at the same time. If we’re shooting with strobes or if it works better for a project, we’ll pass a camera back and forth, both directing and working a scene slightly differently to get a wider variety of images, but almost always, we both have a hand in creating images.

Occasionally, if we have an extremely tight schedule or we need to shoot at two locations at once, we’ll both shoot simultaneously on different sets/locations for the same project. In those cases, we aren’t together, per se, but are both shooting at the same time, and know very clearly what we’re trying to accomplish, how everything needs to fit together, and what the end goal is, so we’re still very much working as a team on the project.

Sometimes we’ll do an underwater shoot or a drone shoot, and one person might be underwater shooting images or flying a drone to get an overhead view, while the other is on land shooting from a different angle. We love to work together to photograph a project from multiple angles at once, and really enjoy getting to see the perspective the other person captured.

What are the best aspects of shooting as a team?
We’ve developed and share a cohesive vision and style, but we are still individually creative with unique ideas. We love that by having two sets of eyes and two minds working through ideas and projects, we can merge our perspectives together and come up with something greater than what we’d do individually. We (and our clients) also love that we can produce more work in the same amount of time than one of us could do on our own. Together, we push things further, find different angles, and push each other to see and think differently, which results in a better final product.

Are you able to turn off your photographic minds and conversation when you’re not working?
Many people often tell us that they couldn’t imagine working full time with their spouse, but now about 9 years into working together, we really couldn’t imagine doing this any other way. Our work is incredibly important to us, and we do find that creating a work/life balance is always a challenge. We pour so much into our work, that we’re often still thinking, talking about, and working on our projects when we’re technically supposed to be off. If we’re on a run or a hike with our dog before or after work, it’s rare that photography or something about the day doesn’t come up. We do make sure we have a number of activities and hobbies we like to do together outside of work as well, which really helps give us some down-time and keeps us connected personally so we aren’t simply business partners. We’re really fortunate that we can spend so much of our time together, and still love being with each other.

Best advice for any photo duo?
Find your individual strengths and figure out how to best divide and conquer — especially on the business side of things. We have many overlapping strengths but also different strengths that complement one another, and it took us a few years to understand what these were and how best to utilize them in the office and on set. We realized that we couldn’t both be equally good at everything, and that having each of us focus on developing certain skills that we gravitated towards would make us much stronger as a team. Once we figured this out, we became more productive and efficient, clearer about our roles, and ultimately much better individually and as a team.

Heidi Volpe

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